Selling sophisticated wares holds not only the potential for high earnings but the excitement of working in growing fields and making contact with creative people. But such jobs aren't easy.
"They take somebody highly skilled technically who has the ability to make complicated products easy to understand and can explain how they will solve a customer's problem," says Tom Silver, senior vice president at Dice.com, a New York-based website that links up employers and the tech community.
The skills and knowledge of the sales reps also have to be kept up to date, which may require attending classes or retraining. And traditional selling techniques may not work with high-tech wares.
"Now, instead of a single point of contact, you may be dealing with a corporate board," says Michael Bremmer, chief executive officer of TelecomQuotes.com, a provider of telecommunications negotiations and procurement based in Moreno Valley, Calif. "This stretches out the sales cycle. It could also toughen the job of closing on a sale that a few years ago might have been won on the basis of a good price." Tim Kilroy, a father of five, changed jobs about a year ago to become a sales representative for three companies, all in some ways linked to technology. The payoff: He raked in between $250,000 and $500,000 last year.
His full-time job is selling advertising for Triggit, an online firm based in San Francisco. And on evenings and weekends, he's a part-time sales rep for two Internet companies that produce social analytic software.
"In sales, if you're good at your job, you can go from making a lot of money most of the time to making an incredible amount all the time," says Mr. Kilroy, who works from home in Arlington, Mass.
Kilroy is part of the rebirth of the salesperson – someone who was supposed to become obsolete in the Internet Age. In theory, people were all going to start doing their buying directly online. No need for legions of salesclerks.